New Software Review: Soundtoys 5 Bundle

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Soundtoys 5 compiles all that Soundtoys has to offer, and adds in a new "Effects Rack" plugin.

Soundtoys 5 compiles all that Soundtoys has to offer, and adds in a new “Effects Rack” plugin.

Soundtoys, founded by a luminary effects designer who defected from Eventide after helping to develop some of their most iconic products, got its start making plug-ins that were a bit left of center.

Early gems like Crystallizer and Filter Freak were truly different, both sonically and creatively. They weren’t plug-ins that just imitated hardware, and they didn’t just do one thing. (Filter Freak, for example has a stellar limiter & saturation stage, as well as a collection of great filter sounds.

Now that Soundtoys has been around a while, if you haven’t been doing so, it may be time to take another look at how this company has grown over the years—especially with the release of their Soundtoys 5 bundle. With the addition of their new “Effect Rack”, Sound Toys have tied all their plugins together in a way that really rocks in the studio.

Overview

Soundtoys has been at this game for a while, and it shows. Their interface designs are top notch—clean and uncluttered, obviously software, but with a great hardware vibe about them.

The knobs look like knobs, and the levers and faders seem to jump off the screen towards you. Even the various readouts have a retro feel to them, and all this comes together in a way that is inviting and intuitive. If you’ve spent any time with actual hardware from the 80s or 90s, then you will feel right at home with these plugins.

The sound of the plugins is also inviting: Both warm and analog-ish, yet modern and unique. Even obviously analog-inspired plugins like the Decapitator, which seems to embrace the idea of reproducing a round, tube sound, can be used to create distinctly digital tones and nastiness.

A partial view of the new "Effects Rack" feature in Soundtoys 5.

A partial view of the new “Effects Rack” feature in Soundtoys 5.

A welcome new addition to the Soundtoys family is the Effect Rack, which acts as a host for multiple Soundtoys plugins in a single insert, helping to declutter your session, save on procession power and even save custom plugin chains and multi-plugin presets.

Effects Rack allows you to easily set up complex chains of effects, and recall them within any DAW.

In addition to allowing you to create your own multi-plugin presets, the Effect Rack is also packed full of wonderful presets that can help out anyone who feels a bit overwhelmed at the thought of starting with a blank slate.

Flipping through presets is easy, thanks to navigation arrows to the left of the presets menu, and the presets can be rearranged according to your personal taste, by clicking the “organize” option in the presets menu.

The best part? Soundtoys 5 includes all of the plugins they’ve released to date. Included in the bundle are:

Crystallizer

This is one of the original Sound Toys plug-ins: A granular resampling & delay unit. You can imagine that its distant relative were an H3000 and Reaktor. This effect definitely has it’s place in many mixes, but it’s more of an “icing on the cake” rather than a “must-have utility” type of plugin. I recommend you try running normal audio parts through it to see what twisted goodness you can come up to add into your track.


Audio Example: A piano is fed through Crystallizer to create beautiful bells out of the original audio.

Decapitator

This is one of those plugins where you don’t really realize just how useful it will be until you actually start using it on the regular.

Want to add a little warmth into your mix? Here ya go! Need to annihilate that vocal with distortion? Yup, this is your plugin. Going into a fight between a synth lead and a guitar? Decapitator’s got your back.

This is seriously a swiss army knife of plugins. It’s a secret weapon. It’s easy to use, with an uncluttered interface, and even the presets are incredibly useful. They make for great for starting points, and upon loading one up, you can just grab and turn knobs for immediate results. To be completely honest, I had no idea that I would use Decapitator so much. I thought it was “just another distortion unit.” Give it a chance, you won’t regret it.


Audio Example: A pretty standard funk bass line gets a bit of grit and personality from Decapitator.

MicroShift

When you read the description of MicroShift, you’re likely to think, “OK, I’ll probably use that sometimes, seems pretty cool,” and then you go back to sipping your coffee and reading the newspaper.

BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT THIS IS AT ALL! This plug-in is so surprisingly useful, and on so many tracks. It is one of those seemingly magic plugins that, much like the Decapitator, can become a true secret weapon in your arsenal, winding up saving the day in places you’d never expect.

Technically, it does one thing and one thing only: Create stereo width. But there is something really beautiful about the way that it does it. OK, maybe it does a bit more than that—it can also make a nice chorus sound, even in mono—but what it really does best is the width.

A nice touch here is the “Focus” knob, which allows you to choose a frequency range to keep more narrow. Most of the time this will be set to the low end, but sometimes it’s nice to grab the knob and sweep it through the spectrum, just to make sure there’s not some kind of magic lurking in the shadows.

The magic is in the fact that it is not just a static sound that MicroShift creates, but one that has an analog-style “drift” that is truly awesome.


Audio Example: Three separate settings shows how MicorShift can add some nice width and imperfections to a plug-in.

DevilLoc Deluxe

If you have a thing for darker or more aggressive styles of music, whether dub step, drum & bass, trap, industrial or metal, then DevilLocDeluxe will definitely be right up your alley.

This plugin can take the purest and most angelic of sounds and turn them into pure evil. The three main controls here are Crush, Crunch, and Darkness, and they all affect the sound in a way that instantly impressed me. Just grabbing one of these knobs and turning changed sounds from beauty into distorted madness. It works especially well on synths, drums, basses, and guitars.


Audio Example: This sawtooth synth gets industrialized with DevilLocDeluxe.

PrimalTap

I can safely say that PrimalTap is one of my favorite delays on the market right now—and I do love me some delays.

The main reason it is so good is the sheer variety of sonic textures that can be got out of it, and quite easily as well. PrimalTap just begs to be tweaked. The clean interface and intuitive controls make it a pleasure to mess with. You don’t have to be a scientist to use this one. You just need to have an inquisitive mind and a lack of fear of grabbing and twisting knobs and faders.

One of my favorite things to do in the studio is run audio through PrimalTap and record the output while just clicking through presets and turning knobs. Even the sonic jumps between settings can yield pleasing results that beg to be resampled.

Based on the classic Lexicon delays in looks and functionality, this plugin brings a fair amount of the past into modern recordings, and can be used to add in some lo-fi crunchiness to otherwise pristine recordings or to create clean delays that just sound so good in a mix.

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